Mandatory Minimums

Obama Commutes Sentences of 111 More Federal Inmates

Among them is Timothy Tyler, a gentle Deadhead who got life in prison for selling LSD.


Tsgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/ZUMA Press/Newscom

The White House announced Tuesday that President Obama had commuted the sentences of 111 federal inmates, his latest round of record-setting commutations this month.

Obama has commuted 325 sentences this month alone, more than double the amount commuted during the rest of his presidency and more than the past 10 presidents combined, in an attempt to clear out a backlog of more than 11,000 pending clemency petitions. In 2014, the Obama administration announced a clemency initiative aimed at nonviolent offenders serving time under mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have since been reduced.

"They are individuals who received unduly harsh sentences under outdated laws for committing largely nonviolent drug crimes, for example, the 35 individuals whose life sentences were commuted today," White House Counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "For each of these applicants, the President considers the individual merits of each application to determine that an applicant is ready to make use of his or her second chance."

One of those lucky inmates is Timothy Tyler, who was sentenced to life in federal prison at age 25, while following the Grateful Dead on tour, for selling LSD to a police informant. He had no history of violent crime, and his two previous drug offenses had resulted in parole.

However, the judge had no choice but to sentence him to life under the federal mandatory minimum guidelines.

Rolling Stone featured Tyler in a 2014 story on draconian mandatory minimum sentences:

Two decades later, now 46 and imprisoned in Jesup, Georgia, Tyler vividly remembers his first Grateful Dead concert, which he hitchhiked 900 miles to attend in Rosemont, Illinois. "I felt this energy," he says. "I immediately knew I had found what I was searching for."

"Tim was captivated by the tie-dyes and the people twirling," says his younger sister, Carrie. "But it was also sanity, acceptance, peace." Growing up in rural Connecticut, the two endured physical abuse at the hands of their stepfather. Carrie describes her brother as "too trusting" and a "gentle soul," and remembers their stepfather instructing him as a nine-year-old to bury a litter of puppies that had died after contracting heartworm. "Tim was punched and put down," she says. "The Deadheads taught him about the earth and karma and positive things."

Criminal justice groups applauded the latest set of commutations.

"Mandatory sentences, and especially mandatory life sentences for non-violent offenses, should be abandoned once and for all," Julie Stewart, the president of the nonprofit group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said in a statement. "We applaud the President for using the clemency power to free people who fully expected to die in prison and for shining a light on the excesses of federal drug sentencing."

Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has blasted Obama in campaign speeches for letting inmates like Tyler go. "Some of these people are bad dudes," Trump said earlier this month, "And these are people who are out, they're walking the streets. Sleep tight, folks."

Here's a video about Timothy Tyler's case:

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  1. It’s funny this article comes right now. I’m about to walk out the door to go to a meeting about doing some work for CP14 this fall. I’m really interested in helping out with the cause, even if the impression I got at the first meeting was that they worship the ground Obama stands on and are all in on SJWism. Maybe having a few libertarians infiltrating the ranks will be helpful o CP14.

    1. Is that C3PO’s brother?

      1. 3rd cousin, twice removed, jeez, don’t they teach droid genealogy in schools anymore?

    2. I assume you are talking about Clemency Project 2014.. The first hits* w/ Google are some IRS stuff..

      * unintentional pun, I guess

      1. Yeah, Clemency Project 2014…. I guess it was mentioned in the link, but not in this article.

        1. So that was sort of an inverse Voight-Kampff test?

          1. Haha, something like that.

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  2. Now if we could just make a permanent policy change to the drug war and sentencing instead of waiting outside the palace lawn for the King to give a reprieve.

  3. We may be going to hell in a bucket, but at least we’re enjoying the ride. Right?

  4. You’d think this wouldn’t be so difficult.

    First pass – were they convicted of a non-violent drug possession or distribution offense? Automatic pardon.

    Automate the form, feed the names into the computer, send it to the autopen.

    1. Seriously. As President this would be on my weekly to-do list. “Oh, is today Tuesday? Bring me the latest batch of recommended Pardons and Commutations.”

    2. Maybe he’ll have an article in Wired about it.

  5. Isn’t it wonderful how magnanimous Obama is!

    What’s the point of legalizing recreational drugs when we have such a magnanimous President?

    The man was in prison for 20 years.

    Obama let him rot in prison for eight years. Obama is only letting him out now because he isn’t running for President again, and now doesn’t care if alleviating pointless suffering makes him unpopular in the South.

    What a shithead Obama is. If abusing gays and lesbians were more popular, he’d have them in the stockade.

    1. He literally cannot possibly win with you, can he?

      If Obama exercises his monarchic pardon power to an extent unprecedented in history, maybe even to an extent necessary for you to shut your face about him, will you talk to Republicans around the country and tell them they’re not allowed to Willie Horton Democrats over any of Obama’s pardon recipients for the foreseeable future?

      He’s talked about this problem himself. The people around him have been warning for 8 years about what happens if he lets someone out who goes on to rape a kid or something. That is why he waited. And sure as the fucking sun comes up, you’d be the first in line to bitch about Obama being an evil bastard for letting a kid raper go.

      1. “He literally cannot possibly win with you, can he?”

        You’re right, Tony.

        It seems like no matter how Obama wields his tyrannical power, I’m gonna keep calling him a tyrant (for acting like a tyrant) anyway!

        He lets someone rot in prison for eight years, and I’m supposed to think Obama is nice guy for letting him out now?

        Fuck you, you disgusting boot-licker.

        1. Geez, Ken, what more do you want from the guy? I mean, if Congress won’t cooperate and decriminalize recreational drugs like Obama’s obviously been clamoring for in secret it’s not like he’s got a pen and/or a phone. And you know he hates the notion of executive orders because of his deep commitment to the legislative process.

        2. He didn’t write the law that got the guy arrested. All he did was let him out after the normal vetting process. You’re bitching about him doing what you want him to do, just not at a pace to your liking.

          Are you going to be on the vanguard of protecting Democrats from Willie Horton attacks, or are you going to continue aiding and abetting the very political entities that are licking their chops at the prospect of Obama releasing someone who might go on to do something horrible?

          1. Why would we defend Democrats from Willie Horton attacks? If the Democrats hadn’t been pushing for ever increasing penalties for drug crimes then there’d be little need to pardon these people after the fact.

            Fuck them. Let them make it right.

          2. Willie Horton was a convicted murderer.

            Why would letting a non-violent deadhead out of a life sentence be like letting a convicted murderer out of prison?

      2. According to this website (it tracks civilian casualties of drone strikes), Obama hasn’t killed any civilians in almost a whole week!

        And if you don’t think Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for that, then you’re just a racist.

      3. Nobody is asking him to pardon kid rapers.

        But you already knew that, and said it anyway.

        1. This is unpardonable.

          Oh, wait, you said “rapers.”

        2. I was referring to the political peril that comes with pardons. Every single person he lets out is a potential TV commercial. Ken rightly notes that Obama waited until he personally didn’t have anything politically to lose, but to ignore this part of the equation is to treat the issue unseriously. Maybe your future criticisms would carry more weight if you gave him credit where it’s actually due.

          1. “Every single person he lets out is a potential TV commercial. Ken rightly notes that Obama waited until he personally didn’t have anything politically to lose, but to ignore this part of the equation is to treat the issue unseriously.”

            No. Commuting the sentences of non-violent deadheads is not a potential headline in the making. This guy was not a murderer like Willie Horton.

            And treating Obama like he’s a nice guy because he finally stopped kicking the puppy after eight years is to treat the issue unseriously.

            If progressives refuse to legalize drugs for fear of white suburban Soccer moms, then their platitudes about racism aren’t to be taken seriously.

            Id progressives refuse to take it easy on non-violent victims of the racist drug war because they’re afraid of getting on the wrong side of the police unions that control progressive strongholds like New York City and Chicago, then their platitudes about racism are not to be taken seriously.

            In all seriousness, Obama is an authoritarian oaf, and the progressives who support him are a bunch of authoritarian buffoons.

            1. Progressives are on board with ending the drug war. Why aren’t you bitching at Republicans?

              Could it be because you have a steady right-wing media diet that has turned your brain into oatmeal?

      4. The people around him have been warning for 8 years about what happens if he lets someone out who goes on to rape a kid or something.

        What happens?

        That’s right, not a god damned thing. At the very least he could have started this right upon taking up his second term rather than having his last minute conversion.

        Like so many people, he’s found compassion just at the moment when it will no longer affect his career.

      5. Tony|8.30.16 @ 5:44PM|#
        “He literally cannot possibly win with you, can he?”

        Oh, yes he could win with me. All he’d have to do is admit he’s been a egocentric lying POS from day one.

    2. I think the more charitable condemnation is 3.5 years (instead of 8) because other Democrats were running 1.5 years ago.

      1. When I was in boarding school, I used to give freshman a purple nurple if they couldn’t sing all the lyrics to the school song.

        But once they got it right, I’d finally let them go.

        I was such a nice guy for letting them go. Somebody should have held a press conference and given me an award for being such a nice guy.

  6. Was reading about Whitey Bulger and apparently he volunteered for the CIA’s MKULTRA program and he said it was nightmarish.

    The Unabomber was part of it too in Columbia University (?) but the CIA understated what it was like and people around him said it fucked him up.

  7. Good old Michael Savage referenced these releases today, of course he made it seem like the end of the world.

    As always, fuck him and his pearl clutching.

  8. One of those lucky inmates is Timothy Tyler

    Holy fuck! I remember watching some TV news about the war on drugs 15-20 years ago, and this guy was their example.

    Glad he’s out, but it’s a drop in the ocean…

    1. “Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

  9. “However, the judge had no choice but to sentence him to life under the federal mandatory minimum guidelines.”

    No, the judge could have resigned. So could the next judge assigned to the case, and so forth, until the judicial exodus would have forced Congress to pass saner laws.

    No choice, my butt.

    1. I’m pretty sure the judge could have directed a verdict of ‘not guilty’ and then left it to the prosecutor to appeal.

    2. It’s not that unheard of for a judge to set aside a mandatory minimum in the interest of justice. I know of a half dozen cases offhand.

  10. I’m going to give credit where it’s due here, Obama’s pen does wonders.

    (“I was going to say “Obama’s pen is doing wonders,” but that would inspire crude jokes)

    1. When Obama was elected, I thought well this will be terrible but at least he’ll ________________.

      Fill in the blank with Close Guantanamo, Stop Spying On Citizens, Not Launch Insane Wars in the Middle East, etc. Not one of them has come to pass. Even these commutations are on the order of past presidents, only slightly more.

      Kudos for that at least, but he should be going way bigger with this. What’s the worst that could happen? Hillary has to come out and act all Law-and-Ordery and condemn it as overreach?

      1. He’s a blind squirrel and he found a nut, there’s no harm acknowledging that.

      2. Hey, his big win was a poorly-designed health care law that’s already teetering towards collapse. Mission Accomplished!

  11. He would have commuted 200 sentences but, dammit, he has a magazine to edit.

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      1. The fascr dev never harangues me. 🙂

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  13. OT: CNN scrubs “crooked” from Trump tweet

    I saw something from Stossel a while back where the TV station edited out the boos from a Hillary speech and changed it into applause. Let me see if I can find it.

    1. Holy shit! Why am I just hearing of this?

        1. “They’re saying ‘Booo-sh was worse'”

        1. VH1 claimed it was a “concert for healing, not for politics”.

          Then why did you invite a bunch of politicians?

          1. Good point, they should scrub Hillary’s image and replace her with a Beyonc? video.

            Then to emphasize the healing, they can do a computer-generated Mr. Rogers.

  14. As much as I despise Hillary, I would love for her to win in a landslide with a Dem majority just so she can nominate Obama for Supreme Court and all the surviving Trumpkins can pull their hair out while he’s grilled on all his clemencies.

    Jill Stein probably approves this message.

    1. I would love for (1) her to win in a landslide (2) with a Dem majority just so (3) she can nominate Obama for Supreme Court

      The triple play that ends the world series between the U.S. Government and the Bill of Rights.

      1. Obama did more to end the drug war than all the other presidents combined. He’s better than anyone Trump would nominate. (And anyone can copy a list from the Heritage Foundation web site. That doesn’t mean he’ll follow it.)

        1. Can you just fuck off now, please?

        2. Let’s see how liberal justices ruled on the drug war. Oooh, not looking so good.

          If Obama’s so great, why he doesn’t he issue full pardons? Commutations leave people with the stigma of the crime for the rest of their lives.

          Also, most Presidents presided over a U.S. Government that did not even wage the drug war. I’d take a non-drug warrior over a lying drug warrior any day.

  15. Gee, in that case, just keep on peddling that influence:

    “An emotional Bill Clinton eyes possible exit from foundation”
    “WASHINGTON (AP) ? When Bill Clinton told the staff of his global charity he would have to step down if Hillary Clinton won the White House, he was vividly clear about how that felt: Worse than a root canal, he said.”…..ouse-life/

    Poor guy might have to give up hob-nobbing with all those TOP MEN who want to buy some face time!
    It’s much better than the old Tom Bodett act, renting out the Lincoln Bedroom.

    1. You know who else continued to run an empire even though they had technically stepped down?

      1. Don’t cry for me!

      2. The Wizard of Oz?

      3. George Wallace!

  16. C’mon CJ! You’re not trying! It’s Obama…there has to be a complaint somewhere in there!

    1. C’mon, Jack. Random whining and not one lie?
      Still waiting for the cite on all of the folks here pitching eminent domain, Jack. Did you forget about that?

        1. Ooh, so clever. But you could have just linked to your own posts.

  17. How would the Proggish supporters in these forums view this if his major accomplishment was ending the war on drugs and he just paid the health insurance premiums of 111 people with pre-existing conditions in perpetuity? Would they be just as impressed by his forward thinking generosity? Just curious.

    1. I think I’m “Proggish” to you folks, so I’ll answer:

      I’d compare what he did to what I expect McCain and Romney would have done.

      So sure, like everyone ever, I wish [insert choice of politician] had done more, especially [insert pet issue]. But expecting a politician to fix everything ever is unrealistic, and it’s better to compare them not against your Platonic Ideal of what they should have been, but against the other guy that was running for the same spot.

  18. RE: Obama Commutes Sentences of 111 More Federal Inmates
    Among them is Timothy Tyler, a gentle Deadhead who got life in prison for selling LSD.

    This is terrible news.
    USA is number one in incarceration rates.
    If we continue to allow non-violent felons a commutation of their sentences, then the terrorists will win.


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  21. I remember the Timothy Tyler case, and was disappointed when it failed on Kickstart or some other crowdsourcing attempt to raise ransom money. Again I am glad the Kenyan won, not only because he defeated the asset-forfeiture prohibitionist simian the Republicans wanted in place of George Waffen Bush, but because he freed a harmless acidhead.
    Another problem with asset forfeiture is that it is another version of these kidnapping operations. When Christian National Socialism did as it pleased after the 1933 Enabling Act speech, jewish individuals in the Reich were rounded up for thoughtcrime and the lucky ones sold back to their friends and families, much like hippies, blacks and mexicanos under the bipartisan Kleptocracy. Luckily, my Libertarian vote is still worth 36 votes wasted on looter soft machines.

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